Use of Fall Risk-Increasing Drugs Around a Fall-Related Injury in Older Adults: A Systematic Review

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2020 Jun;68(6):1334-1343. doi: 10.1111/jgs.16369. Epub 2020 Feb 17.


Objectives: To examine: (1) prevalence of fall risk-increasing drug (FRID) use among older adults with a fall-related injury, (2) which FRIDs were most frequently prescribed, (3) whether FRID use was reduced following the fall-related healthcare episode, and (4) which interventions have reduced falls or FRID use in older adults with a history of falls.

Design: Systematic review.

Participants: Observational and intervention studies that assessed (or intervened on) FRID use in participants aged 60 years or older who had experienced a fall.

Measurements: PubMed and EMBASE were searched through June 30, 2019. Two reviewers independently extracted data and evaluated studies for bias. Discrepancies were resolved by consensus.

Results: Fourteen of 638 articles met selection criteria: 10 observational studies and 4 intervention studies. FRID use prevalence at time of fall-related injury ranged from 65% to 93%. Antidepressants and sedatives-hypnotics were the most commonly prescribed FRIDs. Of the 10 observational studies, only 2 used a design adequate to capture changes in FRID use after a fall-related injury, neither finding a reduction in FRID use. Three randomized controlled studies conducted in various settings (hospital, emergency department, and community pharmacy) with 12-month follow-up did not find a reduction in falls with interventions to reduce FRID use, although the study conducted in the community pharmacy setting was effective in reducing FRID use. In a nonrandomized (pre-post) intervention study conducted in an outpatient geriatrics clinic, falls were reduced in the intervention group.

Conclusions: Limited evidence indicates high prevalence of FRID use among older adults who have experienced a fall-related injury and no reduction in overall FRID use following the fall-related healthcare encounter. There is a need for well-designed interventions to reduce FRID use and falls in older adults with a history of falls. Reducing FRID use as a stand-alone intervention may not be effective in reducing recurrent falls. J Am Geriatr Soc 68:1334-1343, 2020.

Keywords: fall-related injury; medications; older adults; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / statistics & numerical data*
  • Aged
  • Antidepressive Agents / adverse effects*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / adverse effects*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives